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KARAMOKO AT THE CROSSROADS

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KARAMOKO DEMBELE’S first-team concerns at Celtic are highly unlikely to be resolved in the run-in to a wretched season.

The one-time wonderkid, who celebrated his 18th birthday last month, has rarely figured in what was seen as a crucial campaign in his hopes of a breakthrough.

Dembele, who still has 14 months to run on his Hoops contract, made a cameo appearance on Flag Day in August when he replaced Ryan Christie for the last four minutes of the 5-1 win over Hamilton Accies.

Since then, though, he has rarely been on the first-team radar although he was a 79th-minute replacement for Mikey Johnston in the Covid-stricken line-up’s 1-1 draw with Hibs in January when 13 first-teamers were forced to self-isolate following the ill-fated Dubai trip.

Dembele signed a new contract at the club in December 2018 and his terms run until June 2022, but time could be running out for the teenager to make the impact that was predicted after his debut in the 2-1 win over Hearts in the final Premiership encounter of season 2018/19. He was welcomed by 60,000 fans as a second-half substitute for on-loan Oliver Burke against the Tynecastle side.

ON THE BALL…Karamoko Dembele in action against Hearts.

He did enough to persuade Neil Lennon to name in his Scottish Cup Final squad for the Hampden confrontation against the Edinburgh club a week later where Odsonne Edouard scored the goals that sealed the historic treble treble.

However, Dembele has had precious few chances to impress and he took the opportunity yesterday to show some of touches when he had a solid 45 minutes as England’s Under-18s beat their Welsh counterparts.

The tiny tot, who was born of Ivorian parents in Lambeth and raised in Scotland, was given some rare first-team minutes as he performed in the opening half of the friendly.

Dembele, who looked to have been handed a free role in the English attack, showed glimpses of the form that made him such a thrilling prospect at Parkhead.

WELSH WAILS…Karamoko Dembele turns it on for the England Under-18 side.

The forward did make history when he became the club’s youngest-ever European player in last season’s defeat to Cluj at just 16 years, nine months and 20 days.

He became an overnight sensation when he made an appearance in the Hoops’ Under-20s at the age of 13 and the supporters waited until he was unleashed into the first team.

Just before this season’s kick-off, Dembele looked the part in friendly against Hibs where he scored the opening goal and delighted gaffer Lennon said: “We want Karamoko to be around the first-team squad this season. It’s that time for him now when he is going to be training with us all the time.

“He may dip in and out and we just need to be careful with him as he’s still only 17.

“He’s looking stronger as he goes along and the more he trains with the first team the better he will get.”

A lot has happened at Parkhead since that July afternoon.

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